Ret. Gen. David H. Petraeus’ last government job, directing the CIA, included periodic analysis of how another round of sanctions on Iran would affect the price of Brent crude and how the then-nascent U.S. energy revolution would affect energy geopolitics.
Petraeus is a firm believer that the innovations brought to the world by the U.S. have and will continue to make the country a leader in energy for years to come.
The general will be a keynote speaker at Hart Energy’s DUG Permian Basin conference in Fort Worth on May 21. He plans to address the geopolitics of energy and the implications of the extraordinary U.S. oil and gas renaissance.
“We are on the threshold of the North American decades, not the ‘Chinese Century,’” he said, referring to the notion that China’s economic and global influence would rise as the United States’ declines. “That’s not to say that China won’t account for one-fourth to one-third of growth. But the prospect for North America is very bright.”
Petraeus, the former commander of the U.S. Central Command overseeing the operations of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central and South Asia, said the opportunity to talk to DUG attendees, many of whom are leaders in the energy industry, was what persuaded him to speak at the conference.
He said he looks for events that provide opportunities for stimulating thought-provoking conversations, noting how important it is to him to spend time with “others who can help you develop your intellectual capital.”
“This conference is one where I hope to contribute thoughts on global and regional issues in various parts of the world, many related to energy geopolitics,” he said in an exclusive interview with Hart Energy.
A key message he wants to deliver is that the U.S. has created an opportunity to fortify energy security domestically and in North America through the ongoing U.S. energy revolution and through partnership with Canada and Mexico.
Petraeus noted that the energy revolution was born out of U.S. innovation, the nation’s legal system, its capital financing system and several other factors, many of which are unique to the U.S.
“The opportunities for the United States and for our North American partners are really quite extraordinary,” he said.
Energy independence does, he noted, continue to run into some headwinds. He gave approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, now delayed due to legal action in Nebraska, a slightly better than 50% chance.
Ironically, the alternative methods on the table, such as rail transport, aren’t as safe as pipelines, he observed.
“There have been rail accidents and so forth, and that will certainly be one of the methods used, perhaps more extensively” if the Keystone isn’t approved, he said.
Regardless of the decision on the pipeline, a “lot of this oil is still going to make its way to the refineries in the southern states,” he said.
The KXL decision delay notwithstanding, North American energy markets are steadily becoming more integrated with dozens of pipelines, rail lines and other modes of transportation connecting them.
The last piece of continental energy independence, he said, will fall into place when Mexican reforms kick in in the years ahead.
Nevertheless, Petraeus cautioned that destabilizing events can come out of the blue, such as the ongoing situation in Ukraine.
“That could have potentially significant ramifications for the energy supply from Russia to Europe,” he said. Beyond that, he explained, “there are various potential flashpoints that could disrupt regional stability and that have potential implications for energy markets.”
Libya, for instance, upped its crude production to more than 1 million barrels per day in the first year after the country’s liberation from Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, however, production has dropped to a few hundred thousand barrels a day as instability, tribal dynamics and other factors have reduced production and exports.
With the U.S. using less energy due to conservation measures and a steady increase in sustainable energy sources, emerging markets will be an important part of the global picture as will production in other countries.
While Iraq has serious security challenges, they have not affected the south, where the bulk of the oil is produced and exported. In fact, the country recently had its largest production month in history.
And Iran’s possible full return to the oil and gas arena will alter the marketplace.
“If Iran is truly reintegrated into the global economy in the wake of any nuclear agreement, then the ramifications will be significant,” he said. “The question is really going to be about the emerging economies, emerging markets and the developing world,” he said, “and what happens with their demand.”
Petraeus is well known for his military prowess. He commanded the 101st Airborne Division during the fight to Baghdad in 2003 and throughout the first year in Iraq. After subsequent assignments, Petraeus gained recognition for his role overseeing significant improvements in the U.S. Army’s preparation of leaders and units for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, including guiding the development of a field manual about counterinsurgency.
After his second tour in Iraq, he returned to command the surge. During his 19½ months at the helm of the Multi-National Force--Iraq, violence was reduced by 90%, Iraqi forces were reformed and the expansion and transition of tasks to Iraqi forces began.
In early July 2010 Petraeus was deployed to command the NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Following retirement from the military, Petraeus served as the director of the CIA, leading the agency during a period that saw significant achievements in the global counterterrorism effort and other initiatives.
In 2013 he assumed the position of chairman of the KKR Global Institute. He is also a visiting professor of public policy at CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College, a professor at the University of Southern California, a senior fellow at Harvard University and co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations’ task force on North America.